New Delhi: Hours after India revealed that it crossed the Line of Control last night to target terrorists ready to infiltrate Kashmir, Union Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore said that though the strikes should not be seen as military action, they signal that "we will do everything possible to defend ourselves; we may also attack to defend ourselves."
The cross-border action inflicted significant casualties on terrorist launch pads, the army's head of operations, Lt General Ranbir Singh, told reporters today. The strikes, which began at midnight and lasted until 4.30 am in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, are being seen as the first direct military response to the attack at an army base in Uri earlier this month in which 18 soldiers were killed by Pakistani terrorists.
"The strikes are not military action because that would involve large number of forces and very heavy weaponry," said Mr Rathore, stressing that Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir is "part of India so we have not violated anything."
"Only that amount of force was used which was called for, to take down terrorists and those who supported them," said Mr Rathore, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting. "It was a counter-terrorism operation and not a military one."
Pakistan has accused India of "fabricating the truth" and said that in fact, what took place was cross-border firing in which two Pakistani soldiers were killed and nine injured.
Mr Rathore said that there is no reason for India "to keep this (strike) secret". The action represents a departure from India's traditional policy of strategic restraint in the face of continuing and deadly cross-border terrorist acts.
Since the attack on Uri, PM Modi has moved to isolate Pakistan globally. His boycott of a SAARC regional summit in Pakistan in November was joined this week by three other countries. He is also reviewing crucial water-sharing and trade pacts with Pakistan.
At the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj made a forceful pitch for Pakistan to be held accountable for allowing and sponsoring terrorist attacks in other countries.